Simulations all the way down

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I’m sitting here in a Starbucks on Sunset Boulevard in L.A., on deadline, entertaining disturbing thoughts.

I’m pondering Joe Rogan’s podcast interview with Elon Musk I listened to yesterday (they got so high even I got the munchies).

They explored Musk’s ideas about how the world as we experience it might be a simulation.  

Musk pointed out that once you start developing the simulation technologies (such as video games and then VR), they inevitably continue to be perfected until one day they are literally indistinguishable from actual reality. 

One possibility is that some day we will create simulations so good that people will live in them without realizing they’re simulations. 

Another possibility is that some civilization has already created that quality of a simulation and that we’re all living in it now. 

(Musk makes the case that if it IS a simulation, we do not want to take the red pill and live in the real world, because simulations are always far less boring than the reality.)  

It occurred to me (or maybe they said it, I don’t recall) that both are possible — maybe we’re living in a simulation, and within that simulation we will one day create a simulation indistinguishable from reality. 

And maybe the beings that that created our simulation are living in another simulation. And so on. Theoretically, it’s possible that civilizations have been creating simulations inside simulations for trillions of millennia. 

Maybe it’s simulations all the way down.  

It’s a disturbing idea. But at least it would explain L.A. 

American Asians are crazier and richer than Singaporeans

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After watching the popular romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians,” moviegoers could be forgiven for assuming that Singaporeans are “crazy rich,” whereas Asian Americans are relatively poor bumpkins.

I’ve seen a similar idea expressed on YouTube comedy videos like this one that compares Chinese Americans as being typically super rich, compared with Chinese-Americans, who are portrayed basically as lower middle class.

Of course, this is all comedy, and funny, too. And nobody is explicitly making this comparison. But it feels like there’s a concerted effort afoot to create a general impression that Asian Asians are rolling in dough, while Asian Americans are poor.

But this just isn’t true.

The truth is that Singaporean Asians are quite wealthy by global standards, with a median household income of $32,360. (The global average is $10,000.)

The median household income for residents of Hong Kong — by far, the richest group of Chinese people — is even higher: $35,443.

But the median household income of Asian Americans is far more than Singapore and Hong Kong combined, at $80,720.

Despite the weird new stereotype that’s emerging, the truth is that Asians who are Americans are by far the richest Asians in the world. And, as Americans, probably the craziest, too.

I love Chinese wine labels

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I wonder what E-Mail wine tastes like? “It’s got a lovely header. And I’m getting hints of spam with an asynchronous quality that’s hard to describe.”

Bonus: This information comes from a blog focused on Chinese wine called — wait for it! — “The Grape Wall of China.”

Love food, wine, travel? And Italy?

More specifically, would you like to go here...

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And drink this...

And also this...

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And eat food like this...

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And learn how to make wine, cheese, bread and this.....

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And see the real Venice like this? 

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And experience a world of joy, fun, friendship and surprises at every turn? 

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Then you should join our upcoming Prosecco Experience. Find out more!

Phrase of the moment: “outdoor ethics”

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What should be done about tourists who behave uncivilly, unsafely or illegally for that once-in-a-lifetime selfie?

A piece on Quartz by Rosie Spinks says a Change.org petition is brewing that would call for Facebook and Instagram to enable a reporting system for people who are shown in photos breaking the law.

What they have in mind are trespassers, people flying drones in unauthorized areas, disturbing wildlife and other such jackassery, who then geotag their photos, which encourages a surge in visitation and additional attempts to capture a similar selfie.

The petition talks about “outdoor ethics” and a growing concern that “outdoor influencer culture” should be forced by company policy to set a better example for the sake of historic landmarks, public and personal safety and for the environment.

Why Omarosa should be treated like a hero

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Omarosa Manigault Newman is a former reality TV star (boo!), a former former political aide to President Donald Trump (boo!) and the author of a tell-all book that tells us all lots of disturbing things about the president that we already knew (meh!). 

She'll go down in history, however, as a woman who used her personal smartphone to record hundreds of conversations inside the White House without the knowledge or consent of the other people in the room (hooray!).

While serving in the White House, doing whatever it is she was doing there, she carried two phones -- one, a secure, government-issued phone, which she used often for conference calls and an insecure personal phone, which she used to record conversations either in person, or taking place via conference calls on the other phone. 

We all push for legalizing the of recording any conversation we are allowed to participate in. And Omarosa should be the poster child for that movement. 

Why? 

Here's why. As a reality TV star who really had no business working in the White House (only the best people...), nobody would have taken her claims seriously after leaving the White House. She could say the president is a racist. She could say that his staff is complicit in all kinds of transgressions. She could say anything, and not be believed or taken seriously. 

But because she has recordings, her credibility is irrelevant. We can all just listen to what actually happened. It's a beautiful thing. 

The truth is that in general there is a stigma attached to recording conversations. As a journalist, I've been asked many times to not record conversations -- on politician even said they didn't want a recording because he didn't want to be misquoted. What he meant, obviously, was that a recording would prevent him in the future from lying about what he said, removing his ability to claim that he was misquoted after being accurately quoted. 

There is less stigma in lying in public about what one said in private. 

I think these should be reversed. Now that the liars have completely taken over our government, I think it's time that we all push for the right to remember what we heard with our own ears in any way we want to remember it -- including remembering through electronic recording. 

In the past 100 years, the rise of surveillance tech (from microphones to hidden cameras to location tracking) has been hijacked by the powerful to gain even more power over the less powerful. 

Governments, police departments, spy agencies and corporations have all been granted enormous power to record, track and observe citizens in any way that benefits their own objectives, whether honorable or not. 

Meanwhile, the taboo on citizens surveilling back remains firmly in place. 

With the advent of recording equipment in the 20th Century, for example, it became routine for police to audio or video record police interrogations, but remained illegal for the accused to do so. As a result, the police have all the control over the "memory" of what happened during an interrogation. And this is a major power that enables bad policing. 

It would obviously be better if police recorded everything, suspects recorded everything, then we could all go to court and let the jury hear the full truth of what happened in that interrogation room. 

If you believe people shouldn't record conversations that they are legitimately allowed to participate in, on whose behalf are you holding that belief? The liars? The governments'? The corporations?

I say that if they can surveille us, we can and should surveille them. 

To be fair, I don't believe it's right for people in general to secretly record other people without the other person's knowledge and consent -- unless there are serious crimes being committed. I'm a big fan of recording babysitters, nannies and other care-givers suspected of abusing the helpless, for example. 

However, in a perfect world, where recording is legal and everybody would know it, I suspect there might be a lot less lying, corruption and official abuse of the powerless by the powerful. 

In other words, in a world where the powerful have a monopoly on surveillance, the liars have all the power. But in a world where everybody can surveille, the honorable people have all the power. 

After all, the only reason Omarosa has so much power right now is because the people she recorded were lying, abusive, corrupt and shameless. If they had done and said honorable things behind closed doors, they would have no fear. 

After all, the ability to secretly surveille is one of the major things that make the powerful so powerful. In a democracy, shouldn't the people be powerful? 

Omarosa is showing the way. I think she's a hero.